SINGAPORE, Feb. 3 (Xinhua) -- The nubmer of cancer cases were on rise in Singapore in recent years, especially those associated with bad habits often seen in the modern lifestyle, local daily Straits Times reported on Monday.
According to the latest available figures, 12,123 people were diagnosed with cancer in 2012, up nearly 15 percent from 10,576 in 2008, the report said.
The ageing population is one of the reasons, said Soo Khee Chee, director of National Cancer Center Singapore.
"In developed countries like ours, people are living longer. Previously, people would die before they got cancer," he said.
But what is more worrying is how "lifestyle cancers" such as prostate, breast and colo-rectum cancers are contributing to the rise. Prostate cancer cases went up by 52 percent from 2003 to 2012, when cases of breast cancer also rose by 25 percent. These cancers are, respectively, among the top three most common in men and women. They are also known as "developed world cancers" because they are associated with the lifestyle in these countries.
One factor that increases the chance of cancer is smoking, Soo said.
"Overall, the rate of smoking is moving downwards, but there is a trend of more younger people here taking it up," he said. Health Promotion Board figures from 2010 showed that 16 percent of young people aged 18 to 29 smoked regularly, up from 12 percent in 2004.
Other factors contributing to the rise of cancer here are poor diet and lack of exercise, because we are "overfed and eating the wrong food."
Having fewer children and having them later also increase a woman's chances of getting cancer, he added.
Cancer remains the most often seen cause of deaths in Singapore, with 30 percent of deaths in 2011 caused by cancer.
But the outlook is not all bleak. The chances of getting cancer can be lowered dramatically by modifying one's lifestyle. Stopping young people from smoking, for instance, will almost decrease cancer deaths by a third if we succeed.
Some of the most common cancers are also those which have the highest survival rates. Breast cancer has a five-year overall survival rate of 89 percent. This means that 89 of every 100 people diagnosed with breast cancer were still alive after five years. The figure for lymphoma was 70 percent, while that for colon cancer was 60 percent.
"Cancer is not a death sentence. It would be a pity if cancer patients go into despair or give up because they think that way," Soo said.